Don't Meet Your Heroes (If You're Medicated)

Last weekend, I wrote about our trek to Indy where Jason Ringenberg continued to strengthen the opinion I have of him as one of the classiest musicians in Nashville. At the end of that post, I mentioned that the only time I've ever found myself star struck was the first time I met Jason at a small venue in Urbana. Over the past week, I've had a few people ask me about this story.

Well, here it is.

In addition to being a longtime Scorchers fan, I also know enough about the Nashville music scene to know that Jason Ringenberg is borderline legendary. We may not be talking Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson levels of legendary, but legendary nonetheless. For all of these reasons, I jumped at the opportunity to see Jason open for then-unknown Justin Townes Earle back in March of 2009. I knew the venue and it was tiny. Tiny enough that I'd easily have the opportunity to shake the hand of one of my favorite musicians.


In the week leading up to the show, I was dealing with a pretty rough head cold complete with raspy cough and a very noticeable hoarseness to my voice. Feeling better as the week progressed, I was not about to miss this show despite the fact that my voice had still not returned to full strength. For good measure, to ensure that the cold didn't sneak back up on me in the middle of the show, I thought it'd be a good idea to swig down a dose of cold medicine when I got to the venue.

Jason took the stage and was nothing short of terrific as I took in a set spattered with Scorchers classics with my friends Frank and Christine. After wrapping up his set, Jason headed to his merchandise table where he was greeted by a few fans looking for an autograph or a CD.

It was time to face a legend.

Jason had recently started recording children's music under the name Farmer Jason and Amy and I had recently added the first of our three children to our family. Charlotte was about a year old at the time and we'd recently introduced her to Farmer Jason's debut album which she absolutely loved. I thought it'd be cool to have Jason sign Charlotte's CD.

With the CD in hand, I approached Jason at the merch table and quickly came to the realization that the dose of cold medicine may not have been the best idea.

At this point, a voice in my head told me to head back to my seat. I chose to ignore that voice.

Greeting Jason with a smile and a handshake, I opened my mouth to thank him for a great show and to ask if he'd sign my daughter's CD. The sound that came from my mouth was hardly a sound at all. I'd compare it to something like a raspy Yoda voice.

Again, that voice in my head was urging me to stop while I was ahead. But I continued.

My voice was strong enough that I could be understood when I spoke and Jason, being the classy guy he is, thanked me for coming and graciously agreed to sign Charlotte's CD.


As he did so, he asked how old she was and what her favorite song on the album was. It just so happened that her favorite song at the time was a tune called "Little Kitty." Sharing this information with Jason, the cold medicine took full effect as I started to ramble on about her love of the song and her love of our own cat, Smokey.

I told him a lot about Smokey.

She was dark grey. She was lazy. She wasn't really a friendly cat.

The voice in my head was screaming at me now: "SHUT UP AND GO BACK TO YOUR SEAT!"

The best I can describe this situation was as somewhat of an out-of-body experience. I could hear myself talking. I was aware of what I was saying. I knew I sounded absolutely ridiculous. But I could not stop myself!

I didn't take this opportunity to tell Jason Ringenberg how much I loved the Scorchers or to ask any one of the dozens of questions I probably had about his career. Seriously, I was meeting one of my favorite musicians for the first time and I was telling him about our cat?!? Don't forget about my voice, either. That just made this scenario all the more horrifying.

Jason, a class act, smiled as though he was fascinated by my cat stories and even stood to take a picture with me.

God bless him.


Since that night, I've had the opportunity to redeem myself by coming face-to-face with Jason a few more times. One of those times was at a house concert held at our friends Cynthia and Ernie's home where it became clear to me that Jason Ringenberg is just a normal guy like me. The Sandwich Life house concerts always follow a potluck dinner and as I walked into Cynthia and Ernie's living room, it was a very welcome dose of reality to see Jason pulled up to their coffee table chatting with everyone over a plate of chicken and potatoes.

So what have I taken away from all of this?

1. The old cliche that says "don't meet your heroes" holds no water when it comes to Jason Ringenberg.

2. The new cliche says "don't meet your heroes if you've been taking cold medicine. Unless your heroes like stories about cats. Then totally go for it."

1 comment:

the sandwich life said...

This is SO perfect. The thing is, Jason probably really did love your story about the cat. He is so lovely. I always get a touch nervous when musicians show up at our house that I haven't met before, but there are only a few that upon seeing them walk up, guitar in hand, make me giggly. Jason Ringenberg and Peter Case. They both looked so much like THEMSELVES!